The UCSB chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops, Chancellor Henry T. Yang, Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Marc Fisher and UCSB Bookstore director Mark Beisecker agreed in a meeting on Wednesday in room 5123 of Cheadle Hall to halt the Bookstore’s non-backpack apparel purchases from Jansport and discuss alternatives to Jansport backpacks in summer meetings.
USAS came to the meeting demanding the Bookstore licensees be signatories to the Accord on Fire Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding document that outlines factory safety standards for corporations. Because Jansport is owned by VF Corporation, whose practices in Bangladesh do not adhere to the accord, USAS demanded the Bookstore stop buying the company’s products. At the meeting, Yang also agreed to advocate for similar changes UC-wide by speaking with other chancellors.
USAS member and third-year global studies major Brandon Yadegari said he became concerned about the Bookstore licensing relationships after Rana Plaza, a factory in Bangladesh, collapsed in April of 2013, killing over 1,100 workers.
“Since Rana Plaza collapsed in April of 2013, it has been pretty disturbing to us to find out about the relationships and connections between manufacturers that sell clothes to our bookstore,” Yadegari said.
Yadegari said the Bookstore should not work with companies that have factories in Bangladesh such as VF, especially because collegiate apparel is a major source of its profit.
“In Bangladesh, where wages are the lowest in the world and factories are the most unsafe, it seemed apparent to us as a group to work to make sure our university does not do business with companies that … are unwilling to cooperate for safer standards for those workers or who are owned by a company that participates in such supply chain management,” Yadegari said.
According to Yadegari, while no products in the Bookstore are made in Bangladesh, profits from Jansport products go to VF, which is responsible for serious workers’ rights abuse overseas.
“VF, their parent company, who owns brands like Vans, North Face and Columbia, still maintains much of their production in Bangladesh, and maintain production that is secured through relationships with local, provincial governments in Bangladesh that have consistently suppressed unionization attempts through violence, in some cases killing,” Yadegari said.
Yang said he would rather work with other UC chancellors to affect system-wide change than act independently as a campus.
“Many issues are joined issues. If we work together, we have better results,” Yang said. “This is not an isolated issue like an I.V. issue. This is such a good opportunity for me to bring them all on board.”
Beisecker also said he advised against campus-level action to halt business with Jansport, because it may be politically unsound given other UC campuses also use the company.
“For me to pull the license from Jansport and for the other campuses to keep theirs, is a real mixed message,” Beisecker said.
According to Yadegari, multiple campus leadership entities unanimously voted to support a discontinuation of business with Jansport, meaning Yang should meet UCSB USAS’s demand rather than rely upon UC-wide alternatives.
“We’re coming in with right now, UCSB students, UCSB Associated Students, UCSB Academic Senate, UCSB Graduate Student Association, Chancellor’s Sustainability Committee, obviously USAS, obviously the 2,000 signatures that we got, want action at UCSB,” Yadegari said. “For Chancellor Yang to see our university and our climate and then have to ask other UCs, there is a little bit of a disconnect there.”
USAS member and first-year math major Kyle Butts said other university campuses have adopted the accord.
“The decision is not unprecedented,” Butts said. “There are campuses like NYU, Stanford, University of Michigan. There are over 40 universities that have acquired the accord, so we are not alone.”
Butts said because the UC Code of Conduct for Trademark Licensees Steering Committee’s vastly supported resolution asking UC to adopt the Accord was rejected by UC President Janet Napolitano last summer in favor of allowing UC to do business with signatories of either the Accord or the much more lenient Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, USAS has little faith in the notion of UC-wide reform.
“We saw UC-wide support. Every campus was in support of trying to get the Accord to be passed, and we saw the recommendation that UC as a whole should require the Accord,” Butts said. “There was so much support for that, and then it seemed like President Napolitano on her own decision ignored the recommendation and said the Alliance or the Accord.”
According to Yadegari, the Alliance gives corporations more flexibility in determining their own safety standards, which discouraged many student and faculty activists who had campaigned for UC adoption of the much stricter Accord.
“The Office of the President handed down the decision that either the Accord or the Alliance would be required, essentially giving a lot of companies an easier way out of holding themselves accountable and responsible for the conditions that they perpetuate in Bangladesh,” Yadegari said. “I think that was really demoralizing for a lot of us.”
Yadegari said, given the shortfall of Napolitano’s decision, campus USASs need to take initiative.
“At this point, with UC-wide activism being forced into retreat after the president’s decision, USAS at UCSB has come back and said ‘our chancellor will listen to us, we want to work with him, we want to work with our administration,’” Yadegari said.
USAS member and third-year global studies major Dana Patterson said through campus-level adoption of the Accord, UCSB can lead the way for UC-wide change.
“Our focus has been on this and them being able to extend that to the other UCs, and that’s just our strategy as of right now,” Patterson said. “We’re the most active USAS campus, so we’re very much leading the way … We’re the strongest organization of the UCs working on this. We’re the most proactive group.”
According to Butts, UCSB’s independent adoption of the Accord could be the most effective step toward UC adoption.
“By UCSB leading the way and forcing strictly the accord … we could rejuvenate a lot of the activity campaigns toward the Accord,” Butts said. “If UCSB makes the first stride to require the Bangladesh Accord, that gives the committee more power for producing another resolution for Janet Napolitano.”
Yadegari said Yang needed to represent the student body by supporting the Bookstore’s adoption of the Accord rather than consider UC politics.
“We can make our own decisions. Every relevant governing body on campus has told you want they want you to do” Yadegari said. “We understand it’s hard for you to put your neck out on the line, but when every student is telling you to, you should.”
Eventually, Beisecker, Fisher and Yang agreed the Bookstore should initiate adoption of the Accord by stopping orders from Jansport for non-backpack apparel, but Fisher said backpack orders would have to continue until USAS presented a comparable alternative.
“We’re not driving the market, the market drives us,” Fisher said. “We have to find a product line that will replace the one we already have.”
Yang said while he will support a UCSB initiative, he still plans to talk to other chancellors to implement similar change on other campuses.
“I am willing to talk to them, I will be strategically talking to them,” Yang said. “You have more work to do to go to the other students and say ‘we met with our chancellor, have you met with yours?’”
A version of this story appeared on page 3 of Thursday, June 4, 2015’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
You realize UC is becoming the laughingstock of the country because of nonsense like this. First there was the “divest from America” vote at Davis and then the “ban the flag” vote at Irvine. Now this. Alumni and donors are fed up with student antics and are withholding support from the UC as a result. The mainstream media says students are undeserving of constitutional rights and that public universities and professors have become founts of anti Americanism. The UC is held up as a prime example. There are calls for a patriotic litmus test in order to be allowed to… Read more »
Could you please elaborate on how advocating for workers’ rights on their behalf is “nonsense”?
It’s nonsense because Bangladesh is not the United States. You guys complain all the time about America imposing its will all over the world. This issue is an example. The United States should have no role in whether unions are allowed or what Bangladesh safety law is. In other words we should butt out.
The fact of the matter is that by purchasing and consuming goods from factories in other countries, the United States does have a role in the determining safety laws and unionization. And, thus, as students of a university that supported businesses that produce in Bangladesh and in unsafe working conditions, we, as students, have authority to say what goods we would like to consume, where they come from, and how they are made. We use this as leverage to ensure the safety of other people, who, regardless of whether they are American or not, are people just the same. Yes,… Read more »
“We can make our own decisions. Every relevant governing body on campus has told you want they want you to do” Yadegari said.
And yet for some reason bypassed the University Center Governance Board which would have been the appropriate venue for this proposal.
The University Center Governance board is not the appropriate governing body to address on issues that pertain to the sale of apparel at the Bookstore. I believe that when USAS addressed the Bookstore, AS, GSA, Academic Senate, and various committees under the Chancellor, it was apparent that stakeholders at a much higher level needed to be consulted and ultimately held decision-making authority, not the Ucen Governance board. Furthermore, the Chancellor’s demonstrated hesitance to act on the matter, citing concerns about stepping on the toes of UC shared governance bodies further highlights the appropriate steps taken by USAS to target the… Read more »
I’d say this is a fine effort, and I commend the students involved. This is how they learn to petition their government, to organize, to pay attention, how to be civilly disobedient, and all those other activities on which a healthy democracy relies. They earn and protect their Constitutional rights by exercising them. There may have been a “missed opportunity” but mistakes often occur when people try something new. Inexperience, like democracy, is messy. And you can’t ask for market-based solutions if you’re unwilling to admit market forces like consumer preference. But there is nothing amusing about Faux News style… Read more »
I’m waiting for all these rotten students to move the hell out of IV so that poor families can move in to the only “affordable” housing around Santa Barbara. Selfishly taking up space on anything other than oceanside DP (which is too nice for the Frijolero population)is terrible. They should be ashamed! We the school needs to build housing in Oxnard and bus the kids up so they can commiserate with the poor and understand their plight.
These kids need to sack up and lead by example….not demand a retail outlet change their backpacks….chumps
I wasn’t joking. Several mainstream media outlets that tend to be conservative in outlook supported this. The comments were made following the “divest from America” vote at UC Davis and the move to “ban the flags” at UC Irvine. The same commentators argued UC faculty are anti American and there should be a patriotic litmus test in order to teach at public universities. These comments echo similar ones made by conservatives in the 1960s and 1970s.
Hey buttsniff, read my original post in its entirety. It provides the context. But I will explain it so your pea sized brain can comprehend it. The “divest from America” vote (which was vetoed) at Davis followed by the Irvine “ban the flags” vote provoked a firestorm on conservative media like the Wall Street Journal and the like. Media commentators made the unqualified statements that college students deserved no constitutional rights (until they have graduated and are “adults”), that public university faculty are uniformly anti American and indoctrinating their students and that there needs to be a patriotic litmus test… Read more »
Buttsniff? Pea brain? This is starting to sound like a very weird elementary-school spitting match.
Well Dylan the character I responded to kept on saying he couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. That leads me to question his intellectual agility.